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IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin - April 2011

(IFJ/IFEX) - April 8, 2011 - In this bulletin:

1. IFJ Appeals to UN Over Journalists Harassed in "Jasmine" Protests
2. Live Coverage of Japan Tsunami Prompts Restrictive Order
3. Internet Cafes Under Increasing Scrutiny
4. Tibet Websites Shut Down
5. Harsh Jail Term Influenced by "Jasmine" Protests
6. Journalists Under Surveillance Ahead of CCP Meetings
7. Writer's Disappearance in China Raises Concerns

1. IFJ Appeals to UN Over Journalists Harassed in "Jasmine" Protests

The IFJ delivered an open letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay on March 8 in response the escalation of hostilities toward journalists in China covering the "Jasmine Revolution" protests which began on February 20 and attempting to interview blind human rights activist Chan Guancheng. The letter called on the UN's Human Rights Council to condemn the clampdown on dissent and encourage the Chinese Government to honour their commitment to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects the right to freedom of expression and opinion. More than 20 prominent intellectuals and activists are believed to have been arrested since February 20. On March 27, three artists were reportedly detained by police, according to an Apple Daily report, after performing an act with the title "Bury Jasmine" on March 20. Journalists continue to receive warnings when reporting on other subjects around Mainland China, with one journalist reportedly being told by a Communist Party township secretary on one occasion that "social stability is very important, and is an essential element for the country's development".

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-appeal-to-un-over-abuse-of-journalists-covering-jasmine-revolution-protests

2. Live Coverage of Japan Tsunami Prompts Restrictive Order

After the devastating tsunami in Japan on March 11, many China-based journalists quickly dashed to the vicinity to report, with some media organisations broadcasting continuous live coverage of the situation. However the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television issued a direction on the same day which ordered no electronic media to broadcast live reports using overseas media sources. Under Internet and audio-visual program regulations, media is forbidden to make a live broadcast of overseas media without a licence. The authority did not elaborate on which clause might be breached if media broadcast overseas media programs. "It is absolutely forbidden. The officials just worry that some of the inappropriate content such as sensitive political issues might be broadcast," a journalist told the IFJ.

3. Internet Cafes Under Increasing Scrutiny

A new China Ministry of Culture Report, the 2010 China Internet Café Market Report released on March 17, found more than 130,000 unlicensed internet cafés had been shut down in the past 6 years. The closures resulted in the internet café market shrinking by 12.96 per cent from 88.6 billion in yuan in 2009 to 77.12 billion in 2010. The total number of Internet cafes in China in 2010 is 144,000. "The government will continue to regulate the order of the market by promoting large Internet cafe chains," a Culture Ministry official said. In 2010, a state security law was amended to forbid websites from disseminating information that "endangers state security" or "subverts state power". China had more than 450 million internet users at the end of 2010.

4. Tibet Websites Shut Down

China authorities ordered a number of Tibet websites be shutdown in March. Chinese-language Tibetan affairs website TibetCul was forced offline on March 16, reports said. TibetCul co-founder Wangchuk Tseten said on his personal microblog that the website went offline after "higher authorities" ordered server operators to shut down the site but the reason for the shutdown was confidential, a Global Voices report said. An affiliated website, MyBudala, was also shut down shortly before March 10, according to The Tibet Post International website. The MyBudala social networking is also inaccessible, Global Voices also reported. High Peaks Pure Earth, a blog that translates posts from the Tibetan blogosphere, where Global Voices stringer Dechen Pemba is a contributor. At least two other Tibetan-language websites, DobumNet and Sangdhor, were also reportedly inaccessible.

5. Harsh Jail Term Influenced by "Jasmine" Protests

Outspoken pro-democracy activist and commentator Liu Xianbin, 43, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on March 25 after being charged with slandering the China Communist Party. A number of human rights activists believed that Liu was charged for writing articles which criticized Sichuan government after the earthquake in 2008. The harsh nature of the sentence is believed to have been influenced by the recent "jasmine" protests and subsequent clampdown by China's authorities, with activists saying it was designed to serve as a warning to others. One of Liu's lawyers Mo Shaoping said that Liu's writings were protected under China's Constitution, which guarantees free speech. Human rights advocates have also criticised the Government's handling of the case, which saw Liu detained for many months and denied to access to a lawyer. Mainland media covered did not cover the sentence. The activist has been detained several times, once for nine years for his alleged organizing of an outlawed political party.

6. Journalists Under Surveillance Ahead of CCP Meetings

In the lead-up to two important Congressional meetings in Beijing i.e. National Congress and Political Consultative Conference in 5 March 2011, a number of Hong Kong journalists sent to cover the events suspected that their computer and luggage were tampered with. A Hong Kong journalist suspected that someone has sneaked into his room at the Beijing Hotel and installed a long distance monitoring software in computer, according to an Apple Daily report on March 3. Another journalist also found that the password used to access luggage had been changed, the report said. Journalists told the IFJ that security was tightened and their phones had been bugged. "Just to make one call, I have to dial three to four times in order to complete my conversation," a Hong Kong journalist said.

7. Writer's Disappearance in China Raises Concerns

Prominent blogger and novelist Yang Hengjun ("Henry"), was reported to have disappeared without explanation for three days when in Guangzhou, China. According to various reports a colleague of Yang's claimed that the writer, an Australian citizen, had been followed by three people in Guangzhou International Airport on March 27 before he disappeared. Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade demanded on March 29 that China authorities investigate the case, according to reports. However on March 30, Radio Free Asia reported that Yang explained his "disappearance" was due to sickness, which was why he was not answering phone calls. When asked whether he was followed by someone in the airport, Yang was reluctant to answer. Yang, 46, who formally worked in China's foreign ministry, wrote three spy-related novels but none could be published in China.

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